The Ten Best Sports Movies of My Generation

Ingram WorleyCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2009


Let’s make one thing very clear before I get started. This ranking has absolutely nothing to do with critical acclaim. It has nothing to do with award nominations. This will be a very far cry from your usual lists of the greatest sports movies of all-time.


It is, however, the movies that I think are the most enjoyable to watch, preferably with beer(s) in hand, surrounded by your buddies. These are the movies that would prevent me from changing the channel if they showed up on cable at 11:00pm on a Tuesday.

I don’t expect that most will agree with me. I attribute that to the fact that at age 29, I possess the sense of humor of a 15 year old.

I rank sports movies based on a couple of different criteria.

First, the movie must have what I like to call "rewatchability." Yes, I know that is not a word. Second, the movie must have numerous quotable lines. If brought up in conversation, your pals will know exactly what you are referring to. Finally, the actual sports sequences must be filmed with some measure of realism, although I am probably most lenient when it comes to this.

So, here it goes. If you haven’t seen any of these, obviously I recommend that you pick them up. If you think this ranking is childish and nonsensical, you’re probably right, and you’re probably boring. So without further ado….



10) The Program (1993)

This one barely made the cut. I kept it simply because it is one of the few tolerable movies about college football. James Caan stars as the coach of a fictional east coast university football team.

While the acting is sub-par, to say the least, the football sequences are actually okay. Also, the team has games against several notable "real" universities. Complete with steroid references, NCAA violations, and a Heisman trophy campaign, the movie features all the things that make college football interesting.

Why it’s good:

James Caan...Halle Berry...Good football scenes. It also maintains some sense of realism in that the team does not win every game, players get hurt, and players get suspended.

Why it’s ridiculous:

The acting is horrible except for Caan.

Interesting notes:

The football scenes were filmed at South Carolina’s stadium. Also, there was a controversial scene cut from the movie that involved several of the players lying in the middle of a road to prove their "fearlessness." The scene was cut after an actual high school player was run over while mimicking the scene.


9) Bull Durham (1988)

This was Costner at his best. The story of the Minor League Durham Bulls will go down as one of the greatest sports movies ever made.

I only ranked it as low as ninth because in retrospect, it was more of a romantic comedy than a sports movie, although there was enough baseball to include it. In a lot of ways, I think Tim Robbins played the most memorable character in the movie.

I’m not big on Susan Sarandon, but she played the role of the aging "cleat-chaser" to perfection. The movie included several quotes to remember, but for me, the most memorable was the "lollygagger" scene in the locker room. This might be the most- quoted speech in the history of sports movies.

Why it’s good:

The Costner-Robbins interchanges throughout the movie are some of the best dialogue of this genre. Additionally, the minor league angle made for a unique story. I also thought the ending was perfect.

Why it’s ridiculous:

Oddly, I couldn’t come up with much here. This should probably be ranked higher.

Interesting note:

Rumor has it that Costner, Sarandon, and Robbins have all agreed to star in Bull Durham 2. I am not in favor of this.


8) Jerry Maguire (1996)

While I can normally by-pass anything involving Tom Cruise, he actually makes the first of two appearances on this list here. But make no mistake, this movie did not make my list because of him.

Cuba Gooding, Jr. was phenomenal. His role as an undersized receiver for the Arizona Cardinals was spot on. I could skip through the Cruise-Zellweger scenes. However, you do get Kelly Preston in her prime. Plus, this is one of the few movies that I can recall that was actually sanctioned by the NFL. The list of cameos is also impressive.

Why it’s good:

Quotability. You can go anywhere is this country and shout "SHOW ME THE MONEY," and while people might think you are insane, they will absolutely know what you are talking about.

Plus, Cuba’s role as the primadonna NFL receiver seems more accurate by the year. Then there’s the kid who adds some hilarious lines—namely his conversation with a drunk Cruise about going to the zoo. The football scenes, while few in number, are also great.

Why it’s ridiculous:

Tom Cruise’s overacting.


7) White Men Can't Jump (1992)

If you can stomach the two hours of Rosie Perez’s dialogue, this is a great movie. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson team up as a "street-ball" basketball team and learn to deal with their differences. While the basketball scenes are okay at best, the Snipes-Harrelson interchanges are classic.

Why it’s good:

The verbal assaults by Wesley Snipes on Harrelson are spectacular. Harrelson has one of the greatest "white guy basketball names" in history—Billy Hoyle. Plus, I would watch the entire movie just to see the scene where Hoyle attempts to intimidate the other two-man team that they are going to play in the finals of the tournament—"You got a big Z in your ‘fro! Who are you? The Black Zorro?

Why it’s ridiculous:

Unfortunately, the director was unable to hide the fact that Snipes and Harrelson have no business anywhere near a basketball court. Additionally, it is fairly obvious that when Harrelson finally dunks the ball at the end of the movie, the scene was filmed using a seven-foot goal.

Why I almost left it off the list:

Rosie Perez’s voice...nails...chalkboard...agony.

Interesting Note:

Until the release of "Pulp Fiction," this movie held the record for the highest number of profanities.


6) Friday Night Lights (2004)

Unquestionably, this was the most acclaimed movie on my list. Billy Bob Thornton was tremendous as a high school football coach. Tim McGraw was also great as an alcoholic, abusive father.

Plus, this movie spawned what I consider to be one of the most underrated television series of all time (trust me, if you haven’t watched the show, go pick it up on DVD). I really don’t have anything negative to say about this movie because it was nearly flawless. The football scenes were some of the best I’ve seen, and the casting was nearly perfect.

Why it’s good:

Billy Bob Thornton. His acting was possibly the greatest performance as a coach, ever. Also, the movie did not have the Hollywood ending. It delved into the gritty side of high school sports.

Why it’s ridiculous:

It isn’t. See it immediately if you haven’t already.


5)Tin Cup (1996)

If you don’t play golf, you probably hated it. If you do play golf, you might have anyway. The ending was silly and unrealistic. Other than that, the movie was great.

Cheech Marin, in the role of the caddie, was hysterical. The golf scenes were great. The movie also included an impressive list of cameos. Don Johnson, however, stole the movie in my opinion. His role as the rival jerk to Kevin Costner’s Roy McAvoy was second-to- none.

Why it’s good:

The non-golf portions of the movie were actually entertaining as well—a rarity in the sports-movie genre. Rene Russo, as a psychiatrist, was great. Kevin Costner was funny at times. McAvoy’s buddies in the movie were also humorous. But I go back to Johnson who was perfectly cast as a class-A jackass.

Why it’s ridiculous:

The ending. While I’m generally not a fan of the prototypical happy ending, McAvoy’s dumping eight shots in the water on the last hole of the U.S. Open was too much of a stretch. To make it more unrealistic, he holes out the last one. Also, one can only take so much Gary McCord before you want to strangle him with his microphone cord.

Interesting Note:

Johnson and Costner are both respectable golfers in real life. Most of the shots filmed were actually performed by them.


4) Varsity Blues (1999)

Yes, you read that right. I loved this movie. I can’t help myself. The premise of the movie is the high-pressure high school football program at fictional West Canaan High School in Texas, where high school football is a religion.

This is overplayed, obviously, but Jon Voight, who plays Coach Bud Kilmer, actually makes it believable. Nearly every one of his lines in the movie is a classic, highlighted by his "you got the kind of sense that makes me wonder if you know the difference between a sneeze and a "wet fart" line.

The football scenes were actually very good. The young cast, specifically Scott Caan (Tweeder) seemed realistic. I could literally spend hours quoting this movie.

Why it’s good:

Voight—absolutely steals the show.

Why it’s ridiculous:

Two things, mainly. First, James Van Der Beek’s accent is beyond terrible. Second, the hook-and-ladder at the end—if you’ve seen it, you know.


3) Days of Thunder (1990)

There are a couple of reasons why I know that this movie was good. First, when I originally saw the movie, I cared nothing for NASCAR. It didn’t matter. Second, Robert Duvall gives what I consider to be the greatest performance in sports movie history as crew chief Harry Hogge.

I am not exaggerating when I state that every word that leaves his mouth during that movie is an instant quote. Tom Cruise does a passable job of not ruining the movie. Cary Elwes and Michael Rooker have roles as rival drivers and they are both great. On top of that, you get the "big-hair" Nicole Kidman. I could watch this movie repeatedly for the Duvall speech to the car before Daytona—golden.

Why it’s good:

If I haven’t said it enough, watch this movie for Duvall. Randy Quaid is also terrific in his role as the team owner. The monkey-football line that I can’t print here is classic.

Why it’s ridiculous:

The driving sequences are awful and unrealistic. Rumor has it that NASCAR officials shunned the movie post-production because of how laughable the race scenes were. Oh, and Cruise overacts again. Shocking, I know.


2) Major League (1989)

Oh, where do I begin. The cast was great, from Charlie Sheen as Ricky "Wild Thing" Vaughn, to Tom Berenger as aging catcher Jake Taylor. Corbin Bernsen, Wesley Snipes, Renee Russo, Dennis Haysbert, and Bob Uecker were all great.

James Gammon, who played manager Lou Brown, was perfect in one of his only memorable roles. This movie was filled with all-star quotes, perhaps none better known than the "are you trying to say Jesus Chris can’t hit a curveball?"

Uecker’s commentary throughout the movie makes this great movie a classic. I can even get past the dreaded Hollywood ending. The baseball scenes were probably the movie's weakness, but the dialogue more than made up for that.

Why it’s good:

The movie has absolutely everything you would want from a sports comedy. As far as quotable lines go, this one is near the top.

Why it’s ridiculous:

I think this movie was ridiculous for numerous reasons, but it doesn’t matter. This one still stands up as one of the best.


1). Caddyshack (1980)

What can I say that hasn’t been said already? This is the sports movie by which all of the others are judged. I’ve never been much for Rodney Dangerfield’s brand of comedy, but Chevy Chase and Bill Murray more than make up for that.

Possibly the most quoted sports movie of all-time, Caddyshack’s lone fault was spawning "Caddyshack 2," which was possibly the worst movie of all-time—sports-related or otherwise. I truly believe that if you can watch the "it’s in the hole" Bill Murray scene without laughing, there is something severely wrong with you.

I won’t waste any more of your time reliving this movie. If you need me to tell you about it, you are seriously deprived.

Why it’s good:


Why it’s ridiculous:

Everything. That’s what makes it so great.